FOLLOWING MONTHS OF RUMOURS Microsoft finally took the wraps off its Surface Pro 3 tablet on Tuesday. It has a larger 12in display with 2160x1440 resolution, a more powerful Intel Haswell chip up to Core i7 and a kickstand that allows users to position it at any angle.
But the updates in the new Surface Pro might not be enough to save the company from losing money on its tablet brand. Earlier this month, it emerged that Surface tablets are showing no signs of attracting market interest. Two years after first release, according to Microsoft's latest filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for every $100 of revenue Microsoft received from sales of Surface tablets, the firm spent $109.
Despite the tablet measuring just 9.1mm thick and Microsoft touting the Surface Pro 3 as the thinnest Intel Core product "ever made," it's probably too little, too late, as the Surface brand was tarnished by the first iteration of the tablets that were released in October 2012, which ran Windows RT, a watered-down version of Windows 8 that prevented users from installing popular applications such as the Chrome web browser.
This also wasn't a good time for Microsoft, as the firm was receiving backlash from disgruntled users who just couldn't get to grips with the new design of Windows 8.
Perhaps Microsoft should have renamed its tablet altogether at its launch event today, to distance itself from the mistakes made over the last two years with previous versions that have failed to sell nearly as well as expected.
For example, Microsoft managed to shift just 1.5 million Surface tablets in the first four months after launching the device, from October to March, a marginal impact compared to the 52.5 million tablets sold worldwide during the fourth quarter of 2012 alone.
According to informants at the time, Microsoft ordered around three million Surface RT tablets in the run-up to launch but managed to sell less than two million by March.
When users hear the word "Surface", they probably also hear "failure", and bad first impressions of a brand are hard to shift. For this reason, I think PC, laptop and tablet users will still find it hard to get on board with the new Surface tablets, despite Microsoft's hour-long presentation extolling how much better the device is now compared to previous versions as well as competitors' tablets.
Microsoft corporate VP for Surface Panos Panay went to great lengths to impress the audience when announcing the device. He weighed it on scales to show it was lighter than a Macbook Air - even though the Air is a laptop not a tablet and a keyboard generally does make a device heavier - and he even gave a journalist in the crowd one of the devices as a gift, as well as bringing Adobe on stage to say how amazing the device was when using Photoshop on it.
Nevertheless, it's down to the consumers who buy these products to make the difference for Microsoft this time around and buy into the Surface brand. But after the failures of previous Surface devices, it's difficult to imagine that this will happen. µ
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